School Options – Money Saving Tips

School options - three kids with a 3-d printer.

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This School Options Page contains a number of ways that you can cut the cost of a homeschooling for your grade school aged kids. We hope to add other school options in the future.

Homeschooling For Less

Question: Could you please advise my family on how to keep costs minimal while homeschooling? Our kids are 4, 2, and 11 weeks old. I have taught in charter and public schools, but we are interested in homeschooling. On your main site, I see that you recommend Homeschooling for Excellence. I am reading it now 🙂 However, any other advice on keeping the cost of homeschooling low would be greatly appreciated. THANK YOU!! Demetria Elms

Home schooling with Abbey and Joe Economides sitting at a desk

Money Smart Family Answer:

With kids as young as yours are, just spend lots of time reading to them. We used to go to the library every couple of weeks and brought home a wagon full of books. (Check out our Book Review section for picture books — we’ve reviewed loads of our favorites) Also, involve your kids in doing chores, projects and other things around the house. Things such as setting the table and unloading the dishwasher. None of these things cost a penny.

Talk to other families who are a few steps ahead of you and find out what they are using that really works for their kids.

We never used a complete “store bought” curriculum. We just picked things that worked like:

– Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons

If you’re not acquainted with teaching phonics get Spalding Phonics for your own reference.

– Miquon Math-Cuisinaire Rods-Math Wrap-Ups-Lots of biographies and classic books.
-Do some hands-on science — planting some container gardening seeds, baking banana bread.
-Teach them to handle money as soon and you can. Of course, we recommend our MoneySmart Kids system once they’re old enough to recognize the differences in coins.

Young children doing a science experiment at school.

We’re published a lot of this information in our book, “The MoneySmart Family System.”

The Most Important Thing about School Options

But the most important thing is to study your kids, discover their interests and use those to help them learn. Our daughter Becky fought with dyslexia, but because she loved horses, she would work harder to read anything that had to do with horses.

Read all of the books written by Dorothy and Raymond Moore — they really advocate looking for readiness in your kids. When your kids are ready to learn, your job will be really easy.

Don’t try to do this all at once. You’ve got three young kids and your life is pretty full. Just spend time with them, love them and read to them. Your kids will then naturally learn to love to learn. Homeschooling doesn’t need to be expensive to be effective.
Hang in there Demetria, you’re doing THE most important job in the world.

The Benefits of Home Schooling

When it comes to educational choices for kids, we encourage one option hands down. We have homeschooled our children since 1988. There are currently 36.4 million grade-school-aged kids in America and more than 1.1 million of them (3 percent) are taught at home. In 2003 alone, that number increased by about 16 percent. Schooling is a very personal decision. We don’t intend to make anyone feel guilty about his or her particular choice.

Nor are we attempting to “blast” public or private education. Both are respectable institutions with many excellent teachers and administrators. However, we want to share our experiences regarding the benefits derived from intimate parental involvement in a child’s education. And, more specifically, how homeschooling can save money and time and draw your family closer together.

All five of our kids have been homeschooled from pre-school through high school. Two have graduated from community colleges and one is currently attending. In addition to more than 19 years of teaching our kids at home, we were founding board members for our state’s largest homeschooling organization — Arizona Families for Home Education.

While Annette does the majority of the teaching, we all believe that life is our classroom and our goal is to learn as much as we can. At times, homeschooling is just plain hard work. It requires sacrifice and discipline, but the benefits far outweigh the cost.

Here are 12 benefits we’ve experienced schooling our kids:

1) Readiness 

Each child is unique and develops at his own pace. Some of our kids learned to read at age four; others much later. Homeschooling has allowed us to cater to each child’s unique timetable in a way that’s impossible for larger schools. Becky, our eldest daughter, suffers from a mild case of dyslexia and didn’t read well until she was eleven-years-old.

In a school setting, she would have been labeled and sent to remedial classes. We didn’t give up, but kept reading to her. Becky just graduated from college with a 3.7 GPA, Magna Cum Laude. Her schooling success was the result of her dogged determination and hard work. Ironically, she works in a bookstore and loves recommending books to parents who want to encourage their kids to read. Becky excels in the children’s department there.

Between ages five and seven, some kids cannot sit at a desk for hours at a time. If they are pushed too early, they’ll experience a lifelong struggle with school (this was Steve’s experience). These kids aren’t “dumb;” they just don’t fit the school system’s mold. Conversely, gifted students become easily bored with the average classroom’s slow pace. A sensitive parent teaching at home can accommodate each child’s readiness to learn.

2) Closer Family Relationships

The standard age and grade segregations in most school systems keep siblings from interacting. Kids bond more closely with classmates than with family members. Homeschooling enhances unity, as families do so many things together. Our kids learn to defend one another, play games together and occasionally work through those sibling disagreements.

RELATED ARTICLE: Free Educational Websites for Kids

3) Schedule Control 

Have you ever been pressured to help complete your child’s science project or sew a costume by tomorrow? If you have several kids in various grades, the barrage is constant. There is no consideration for your time, thrifty lifestyle or other family commitments. Home school allows us to control our schedule as well as expenses associated with schooling.

We’ve tackled some major schooling projects, such as the state fair, history fairs and science fairs. Each child competed, even though it was a lot of work. But having all of them involved in the same event and starting to work on projects early cut back on stress and saved money too!

4) Reduced Peer Pressure

Trendy clothing, the latest cell phones and cars given for 16th birthdays all fuel peer pressure to suffocating levels in traditional schools. Many a kids’ learning occurs in halls and on playgrounds. While classroom instruction is relegated to secondary importance.

Middle and high schoolers are pressured to gain significance through romantic relationships. Home schooling allows us to better encourage our kids to focus on their studies, volunteer service and their goals for the future.

In 1960, Harold McCurdy directed a study titled “The Childhood Pattern of Genius,” commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution. The study uncovered a three-part recipe for developing high achievement in our kids:

1) Much time spent with warm, responsive parents and other adults
2) Very little time spent with peers
3) A great deal of free exploration under parental guidance.

McCurdy concluded, “The mass education of our public school system is, in its way, a vast experiment on reducing . . . all three factors to a minimum. Accordingly, it should tend to suppress the occurrence of genius.”

5) Teacher / Student Ratio 

Many schools have ratios of 25 students to one teacher. Such large numbers preclude individualized attention and customized curriculum. At best, these teachers aim for the average student, bolster underachievers and hope the brighter ones won’t be bored. When a mom tutors a child one-on-one, so much more can be accomplished.

She can tailor a curriculum to a student’s interests and aptitude. Traditional schooling usually means a different teacher each year, which may change the student’s entire academic and social atmosphere. While home school provides continuity and security.

6) Social Development 

We’re commonly asked about socialization. Our kids are not lacking socially. They can hold conversations with adults and kids alike. This is fairly common for home-schooled kids. Sending kids to conventional schools just for socialization purposes is foolish. Consider what happens when teens are left to socialize on their own, it’s a pretty scary thought.

Their behavior degenerates from cliques to teasing to barbarism. If you’re familiar with the book or movie, Lord of the Flies (where a number of young boys are marooned on an island without any adult supervision) you’ll understand this concept.

And with Boy Scouts4H, sports teams, church activities, volunteer work and family activities, our kids have no lack of social opportunities.

7) Volunteerism 

Kids who spend seven to eight hours each day in school, with a couple of hours of homework and maybe an extracurricular activity at night, have little time for anything else. Our home-schooling time is very concentrated. Younger kids can complete their studies in one or two hours, while high-school aged kids may take four or five.

This leaves time for other activities. In a two-year period, daughter Becky amassed over 400 hours of volunteer service and 200 hours each of physical fitness and personal development while pursuing her Congressional Award Gold Medal.

Volunteering together as a family within the community, not just at church, helps kids learn to appreciate what they have. They also develop compassion for others less fortunate. Performing musically at a nursing home, helping a widowed neighbor with yard clean up or taking blankets to the homeless are just a few ways we, as a family, can easily meet needs.

8) Finding a Passion 

One of the older sons from a home-schooling family we know is very interested in plants and landscaping. Recently he gave us a tour of his work. He had a back yard full of seedlings, container gardens of lettuce, spinach and squash. Also trees and an area being prepared for a lawn. This was all accomplished by a seventeen-year-old who has a passion for this type of work.

Home schooling allows time to pursue hobbies that may eventually become a lifelong vocation. We’ve connected our kids with people incredibly skilled in police work, equine management, and sports & military disciplines. In each case, their tutor’s enthusiasm has spurred them on to chase their dreams.

Conventional education with its academic demands allows little time to test the waters of other interests. After spending four years earning a college degree, some young graduates just cast it aside. Then they spend several more years floundering until they decide what they really want to do. The teen years are the perfect time to expose our students to as many experiences as possible. Hopefully this achieves the goal of helping them discover a passion for their life’s work.

9) Curriculum Choices 

Traditional schools offer parents scant input regarding curriculum. School boards or administrators define the course of study, and parents are told to leave decisions to “the experts.” Concurrently, teachers are asking parents to be involved in their children’s education. Responsible parents want to be involved in helping their kids learn and grow.

If our kids were enrolled in traditional school, one of us would regularly be there to help and know what was being taught. We carry this attitude over to everything our kids are involved in from doctor’s visits to extracurricular activities like scouts or 4H. We want to know what our kids are being exposed to.

Home schooling allows us to select a curriculum that supports our life perspectives. Often, controversial concepts such as gender confusion, evolution and sex education are woven into the fabric of traditional courses of study. Being selective allows us to immerse our kids in our values. Plus we can choose to make an in-depth study of topics that are of interest to us, which traditional schools may just glance over. For example, prior to our 2005 trek to Washington, D.C., we spent months reading books on our country’s founding fathers.

Curriculum publishers will sell you complete materials for whatever grade your child is in. Over the years, we have created our own eclectic curriculum that includes math, history, science, geography and even Latin, just to name a few. It is cost effective and very rewarding. Books are handed down from child to child. By the time the youngest one gets to a subject, you can be sure that Annette has become an expert.

10) Faith Perspective

Expressing your faith in a traditional school can be controversial. With the ACLU ever watchful, administrators are hesitant to allow any expression that might violate the supposed “separation of church and state.” It seems as if all references to the faith of our founding fathers have become taboo, not to mention a child expressing his personal faith. Home school allows parents to weave their personal beliefs throughout all academic subjects.

11) Discipline & Organization

Habits of discipline and organization are learned in the home. Students will benefit from learning to plan ahead and pace themselves. They also order their work area and organize their notes and thoughts. Parenting (home school or not), requires discipline and organization and we must transfer these concepts to our kids.

It’s not as hard as you might think, and the trickle down effect for the kids is wonderful. It’s so funny to hear Abbey (age 12) talk about the Christmas shopping she is doing in June . . . wonder where she got that idea? Helping our kids learn study habits and organizational skills are foundational to success in all areas.

12) Self Starters 

Encouraging our kids to become independent learners and self starters is really important. Traditional schools have such rigid time schedules and courses of study, that allowing students to pursue personal interests is difficult. Independent learning is a distraction because each child is expected to keep pace with the class. If a student gets too far ahead, he’ll be bored.

While mothers comprise the majority of home-schooling teachers, obviously they can’t be experts on every subject. That’s where dads and reference books come in. Kids who are taught from a young age to love to learn, will pursue many academic subjects beyond their parents’ knowledge level. Roy (age 16) knows in-depth details about the U.S. Air Force because that is his passion and he pursues that information with fervor.

There are so many more advantages of home schooling. We couldn’t imagine living any other way. But let’s be honest, it isn’t for everyone. And if it isn’t for you, at least let this article be an encouragement to make your home a place where learning is valued and encouraged. Be involved with your kids and their school-work. Help them discover and develop their passion. Seeing our kids set and achieve their goals provides a richness to our lives that is irreplaceable.

Check out our School Expenses & Supplies page to save more money.
Check out this awesome blog we wrote about Free Educational websites for kids!

School Choice and options for a more customized education for our kids.

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